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Shorter Reviews121 the radical complimentarity of Benjamin's thought. As Slaughter suggests, Benjamin pierced the flaws of both Marxist theory and practice, but not solely from a desire to save Marxism from its Stalinist and reformist detractors. Benjamin's use of the past is mediated not only through a critique of official Marxism, but also, because of Benjamin's roots, in a more mystical and Jewish sense of redemption and revelation. Benjamin's close relationship to the leading interpreter of Jewish mysticism, Gershom Scholem, is not even mentioned. By focusing entirely on Benjamin's materialism, Slaughter obfuscates the idealist and phenomenological overtones of Benjamin's work (not to mention his particular brand of Kantianism). The tendentious counterposing of Lukács to Benjamin creates an impediment to understanding the significance of the concept of reification in Benjamin's work on the Paris Arcades project. Finally, to reduce the specific contribution of Benjamin to his work on the artist's productive relationships and technique may work to sanctify the correct Marxism of Benjamin; it does not, however, disclose the strengths and weaknesses of Benjamin's Marxism. Benjamin's critical insight eludes Slaughter precisely because he cannot recognize how objects are appropriated not only on the level of productive relationships, but also through the reifying and symbolic ensemble of social relationships. Thus, Slaughter's Marxist method ultimately fails both to comprehend Benjamin and to illuminate the ambiguous role of Marxist perspectives on ideology and literature. Wayne State UniversityFrancis Shor Address: Rimbaud, Mallarmé, Butor, by Liliane and Cyril Welch; ix & 234 pp. Victoria, British Columbia: Sono Nis Press, 1979, $10.00. Address is not one but many books. It is a broad-ranging investigation of the historical forces of the 19th and 20th century that have shaped the contemporary human condition; it elaborates the relation of poetic texts (of Rimbaud, Mallarmé, Butor) to these developments and to hermeneutical theory of interpretation; it calls upon ancient, biblical, eastern, and modern philosophy to provide perspectives on the present encounter of man and world. In the hands of less accomplished readers of philosophical and literary texts, this ambitious project might have resulted in dissipating any sustained argument. Yet the Welches' study has a particular exigency or unity of purpose that accounts for both the force of its insights and its equally interesting blind spots. Two fundamental hermeneutical principles articulate this coherence: the concepts of historical continuity and of communication that emerge through the work of art. Readers of hermeneutics, especially the writings of Hans-Georg Gadamer, will recognize his insistence both on "the hermeneutical conversation" (the process of grasping the question posed by the text), and on interpretation 122Philosophy and Literature as an historical act relating the text (of the past) to the present context of its reading. In Address, as the title implies, texts address themselves to us; the aim of interpretation is to determine how literary works are "embodied responses to our own age." It should be noted that the notion of dialogue, with its logic of question and answer, determines the book's general frame of interpretation , the sections on each poet being explicitly divided into chapters on the question, analysis, and conclusion. The rhetorical form of interpretation as address, i.e., question and response, is made to mime the rhetorical form attributed to the poetic texts themselves. Hermeneutics, it would appear, does its work most "unobtrusively" when it conforms to its object in a mimetic fashion, for such mimetism persuades of a necessary link, that of identity, between texts and their interpretation. Although the authors do not take up this question, readers might ask whether hermeneutical questions arise from a priori philosophical imperatives rather than textual or literary ones. The Welches' goal is "helping works do their own work." At the same time, formalized existential concerns, preceding the poems' analyses, do seem to dictate the questions to the poems instead of being posed by them. Coming after convincing translations of each poem, the attentive analysis of works by Rimbaud, Mallarmé, and Butor show that readings in Address are most productive when they are less declarative than performative. These sensitive readings show interpretation as participation in the poetic text's unfolding, with the distance separating...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 121-122
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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